HELSINKI (AP) – Finland announced Tuesday it would close its last remaining facility. Crossing the border with Russia Amid concerns that Moscow is using migrants as part of a “hybrid war” to destabilize the Nordic country after joining NATO.
Finland had already closed seven of eight checkpoints on its 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border with Russia this month due to a surge in migrants from the Middle East and Africa. Helsinki blames Moscow It takes them into the frontier, through the deep forests of the south and into the rugged arctic landscape of the north.
“The government has decided to close all checkpoints along the entire eastern border,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters, adding that Finland was facing an “exceptional” situation and that the government was He said he was accusing the government of orchestrating the attack.
“Finland has serious reasons to suspect that the entry (of the migrants) was organized by a foreign country. This is related to a Russian influence operation and we cannot accept it,” Olupo said. He spoke frankly. “We will not accept any attempt to undermine national security. Russia caused this situation, but it can also be stopped.”
The Finnish government said the total closure announced on Tuesday is expected to last at least two weeks, after which one intersection may be reopened.
Currently, migrants arriving from Russia can only apply for asylum upon arrival at a Finnish airport or seaport. However, currently there is no air or passenger ship traffic between Russia and Finland, so such an option does not exist.
The Kremlin denies encouraging immigration to Finland and says it deplores the closure of Finland’s borders. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova argued last week that Helsinki should have instead sought to “find a mutually acceptable solution or receive clarifications.”
Finnish authorities say around 1,000 migrants without visas or valid documents have arrived at the normally tightly controlled border since August. This border occupies a significant portion of NATO’s northeastern flank and serves as the European Union’s external border in the north.
Finnish authorities said about 900 of those people arrived at the border with Russia this month, an unprecedented increase for the country of 5.6 million people. The asylum seekers are said to be from countries including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Most are young men in their 20s and 30s, but some are women and families with children, Border Patrol data and photos show. Many of them were wearing sneakers and light outdoor gear. Finnish and Russian media reports said almost everyone arrived at the border area on bicycles, which were provided and sold.
The governor of Russia’s northern Murmansk region said last week that at least 400 people were waiting to enter Finland on the Russian side of the border, and that number was expected to rise further as Helsinki gradually closed its borders. Stated.
In a separate statement, Orpo said Russia was “bringing people to the border under harsh winter conditions.” Finland is determined to put an end to this phenomenon. ”
Two years ago, the EU accused Russia’s ally Belarus of using migrants seeking a better life in Europe as pawns to destabilize Western democracies. European leaders called it a form of “hybrid warfare” by the Russian government, along with disinformation, election interference and cyberattacks.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen used the same words in a Nov. 22 interview with The Associated Press.
He said there was no doubt that Russia was “using migrants” as part of a “hybrid war.” Ahead of this year’s decision to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finnish officials warned that Russia could seek ways to destabilize the country in retaliation, including cyberattacks and directing migrants to the border. I warned you that there is. This is what happened in Finland in the winter of 2019. 2015-16.
“Unlike in the past, we now have evidence that Russian border authorities are not only allowing people without proper documentation to enter the Finnish border, but actively assisting them to enter the border area. ” Valtonen said.
Some Western political analysts believe that Russia’s motive is to cause havoc on the EU’s external borders.
For decades, Finnish and Russian border authorities have ensured that only people with proper documentation can cross the border in both directions. But recently, Finnish authorities have noted changes to inspections by Russian security forces, which normally do not allow foreigners within a radius of a few kilometers.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said Finland’s last border crossing open to vehicles, the Raja Giuseppi checkpoint north of the Arctic Circle, would close at midnight on Wednesday and remain closed until December 13. Railway checkpoints between the two countries remain open, but only for cargo. traffic jam.
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